Each week we’re posting a new excerpt from the Attachment Parenting memoir, Misadvenutres of a Parenting Yogi. Enjoy! Leave a comment and let us know what you think of the book so far. And stay tuned for next week’s excerpt!
I am a parent. I can prove it. Inside my coat pocket right now are one diaper (clean), one pair of children’s underwear (soiled), one unscratched lottery ticket, and countless teething biscuit and rice cake crumbs.
I am also a yogi. Ten years ago, this was easier to prove. My pockets were filled with half-used class cards, a bookstore receipt for Light on Yoga or The Ayurvedic Cookbook, and folded-up handouts of Rumi and Kabir quotes. Now, ten years later, there’s lesstime for yoga classes, and I’m reading parenting books instead of yoga books. But, still, my yoga is alive and well. My attempts at mindfulness and union are stronger than ever.
For example, this morning, after my family had breakfast at the Lone Wolf Café.
Noah, age six, loves the waffles, and I love the Lox ’n Latkes Benedict. After breakfast we are to drive a few miles to the Amherst winter farmers’ market to shop and meet some friends. We finish breakfast and walk to the car, but Benji, age two, will not get in his car seat.
He is standing on the floor in the backseat and will not sit. To drive like this, with Benji not strapped in, is, of course, illegal and unsafe. So Gwen and I can’t give in. We must get him buckled. Benji is crying and it’s too cold outside to keep the windows open, so the noise in the car is building. Soon, very likely, like a domino, Noah will succumb to the noise and begin wailing in a cacophonous duet.
I have just read nineteen parenting books; surely I’ve got something up my sleeve.
I try Playful Parenting. “Benji, if you don’t sit in that seat, well, I’m going to sing ‘Yankee Doodle’ until you do.” I make a doofy expression and start singing.
No giggles. He’s not buying it. He plants his feet into the floor mat.
I try Simplicity Parenting. I relax my body and sit in my seat. What’s the rush? We’re headed to the farmers’ market, for Pete’s sake. The kale can wait another ten minutes.
But Benji does not. And he does not budge. Let’s face it, as strategies go, waiting out a two-year-old is just bananas.
I think of what good old Dr. Spock would say. I trust my son. Maybe he’s trying to tell us something. He probably doesn’t feel like being strapped in because his body needs to move, to get out some pent-up energy. Heck, if you tried to strap me to a chair, I’d resist, too. I’d run. So Benji and I walk a few blocks to get out some energy and stretch our bodies. Gwen drives alongside.
We have a lovely walk hand in hand. Benji is all smiles now, happy and delighted. A Norman Rockwell painting: Dad and son on Main Street.
A few blocks later Gwen pulls over. Surely Benji has moved on. We get in, and I try to buckle him into his car seat. But move on he has not. He is stiff as a board and crying. As if our Norman Rockwell moment never happened.
Just as I think we’re going to have to go full-tilt Ferber on him, I remember to attune. To get mindful. To really pay attention. Benji’s stuck. He’s obsessed and lost in a tantrum. I ask myself, “What can help Benji relax and move on? What will interest him and fish him out of his mire?”
Answer: Well, he’s been very social lately. He loves playing with friends.
So I ask him, “Benji, what’s the name of your friend who’s coming over later?”
On a dime, his body goes slack. He looks at me. We make eye contact.
“Greta,” he says, catching his breath, focused on something new.
My face lights up. “Ohhhh, Greta,” I say, as I buckle him into the car seat. He is smiling, happy as a clam.
Why did this work?
I have no idea. And no formula to repeat it.
Except to look closely at the moment. To be present and really pay attention. To respond not out of habit and not based on prior situations but directly to each new reality.
This, to me, is conscious parenting. But what does it entail? Should I bring the boys to kids’ yoga? Use cloth diapers? No diapers? Cosleep? Keep a family bed? How many slings do I need to own? And what about vaccinations and circumcision?
What do we say when Benji throws his organic butternut squash against the wall? Or after Noah has a tough day at school? How do I avoid passing along my own anxieties and neuroses? And what the heck can Gwen and I do to stay connected amid the chaos?
Do we practice Attachment Parenting, Playful Parenting, Unconditional Parenting, or Simplicity Parenting? Or do I heed Lenore Skenazy’s Free Range Kids and back off and stop hovering, already!? Who knows, maybe sweet Dr. Spock got it right sixty years ago when he told us simply, “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”
Sometimes I think all I need to do is pose as a Republican for a decade or two so my kids will rebel and become hippie environmentalists.
To answer these pressing parenting questions, I have been reading books, watching countless videos, and attending workshops, seminars, and trainings. I have even worn a synthetic strap-on belly during downward dog posture.
In digging deep into all these approaches, I’ve found some solutions, yes, but equally important, as I’ve searched for the keys to conscious parenting, I’ve learned an awful lot about trust, compassion, and forgiveness — for myself and for my kids — and I think, in this, I may have stumbled on the very heart of yoga as well.
This process has involved an Ayurvedic doctor, a plus sign on a pregnancy test, an osteopathic shaman, the Eric Carle Museum, and not much sex. But before we get into all that, let’s head over to the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts, on a Friday in 2003, when I meet my wife and our tale begins.
Image: Micah Sittig